the whole shebang

November 1, 2006

If you depend on florescent bulbs to change the world, prepare for huge disappointment – Part 1: CFLs aren’t for everybody

Filed under: Environmentalism — wholeshebang @ 6:26 pm

(Please note that I am closing this, as I am seperating it into 3 posts for sanity…so everyone should reply to Part 3.)
In A Lightbulb That Could Change the World, an article in the magazine Fast Company, much is made of the potential of the compact florescent lightbulb to change the environment. But if you expect CFLs to change the world, prepare for big, big disappointment.


Well, there are two parts to this. (In fact, this is getting long, so I’ll seperate this into two posts.) The second is far more important, and I’m only making it second because it’s a higher level concept and takes some understanding of real environmental issues on a worldwide level. The first is simple to understand, and it has to do with the level of desire for compact florescent lightbulbs. Here is what Fast Company says:

“Wal-Mart’s push into swirls won’t just help consumers and the environment; it will shatter a business–its own lightbulb business, and that of every lightbulb manufacturer. Because swirls last so long, every one that’s sold represents the loss of 6 or 8 or 10 incandescent bulb sales. Swirls will remake the lightbulb industry–dominated by familiar names GE, Philips, Sylvania–the way digital-music downloads have remade selling albums on CD, the way digital cameras revolutionized selling film and envelopes of snapshots. CFLs are a classic example of creative destruction.”

1: Many people can’t stand even the newest CFLs

I am one of them. As an adult, I realize I always had a mild form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, though it bothers me less now. I can’t even stand eating in the dark. It used to drive me crazy when I stayed at my aunt’s and they would use the dimmer in the dining room to save electricity.

I – can – NOT – stand – florescent – bulbs! Not even these new ones at Wal-Mart, and believe me, I’ve tried a few. I cannot work or even casually read for long in a florescent-dominated environment. Doing so even gives me headaches. Let there be light!

In fact, even incandescent bulbs don’t do the trick for me. The only thing that does is halogen bulbs, which are true, bright, light like you get if you walk outside on a sunny day. The real kicker with them isn’t just the brightness, it’s the color spectrum. Unlike even the best incandescents, which are always at least somewhat yellowish and dim (though the good ones may only disappoint people like me), halogens are true white-warm and bright.

Unfortunately, halogens are also hot, dangerous, expensive, and heavy (they are made of thick, heavy glass to prevent easy breakage because they get so hot they would start a fire if broken). I had a multi-light floor lamp which unfortunately turned out not to have well-made sockets and shades, and the bulbs had a tendency to loosen…not exactly the safest situation. And they are so hot that you cannot simply grab the bulb quickly and fix it. You are compelled to keep a pot-holder nearby at all times! The heat output is a killer in the summer. And though they are pretty energy-efficient, they don’t compare to florescents.

Now, it’s not only SAD sufferers (mild and otherwise) who can’t stand florescent bulbs. I’ve asked a lot of family and friends if they’ve tried them, and they mostly can’t stand them either.

The Fast Company article may be an example of naive enthusiasm run amok, but some of the Feedback (letters to the editor) of people who have converted to CFLs are downright amusing. Some examples:

“We are not the people that most would believe would be fans of them: We are hard-core conservative Republicans!”

I’m still trying to figure out how their political alignment would be expected to affect their preference in lightbulbs!

“Let’s have some leadership from the Department of Energy to coordinate with GE, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and so forth, and in the interest of the national good, give the bulbs away.”

Cool! I can turn around and sell them on eBay when the freebies run out!

“…you’re missing the entire LED lamp phenomenon…LED lights are the ones that are going to change the world.”

Oh, God, I hope not. The only thing I can imagine worse than suffering under a florescent light is squinting to work under an LED! Clocks, they’re great for clocks. Let’s just keep them in clocks and stuff, okay?

[ Go to Part 2 ]


1 Comment

  1. […] Based on the article I wrote yesterday, I figured I might as well ask and hopefully some nice people will show up and give me some input. […]

    Pingback by Has anyone tried those “full-spectrum” floor lamps? « the whole shebang — November 2, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

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